Robby and Morpheus p Scientists vs. Science FictionWhen it comes to science fiction, we enjoy the idea of what could be, and what might be vs. the hard core reality of the underlying science to our favorite shows and movies.

Some older movies hit on a subject matter that is touched upon in many a retelling, paying true homage to the genius that invented them. Some newer tales hit us with such obscure new angles on a story that the retelling of it would be a mere rip-off.

I’ve had interesting arguments with the scientist’s I work with about the science in our beloved Sci-Fi shows. I don’t think they’ve caught on , but I like tormenting them.. They do set themselves up for it.

It’s funny when they repeatedly badger my favorite shows for scientific flaws like there’s no sound in space? Duh.


I then point out that while “scientists” were trying to prove the earth was not flat, science fiction writers where putting men on the moon, even though it was an impossibility when they wrote those stories.

My favorite part of the debate is when I get into the definition of Science Fiction. (Sci: The state of knowing and Fi: Something invented by the imagination.) But when you query Merriam Webster for the term Science Fiction, it does not produce a definition. But Wikipedia says Science fiction is a broad genre of fiction that often involves speculations based on current or future science or technology.

Maybe I’ve sparked something in the science community (or not) but over on NewScientist, amongst the articles about ‘Rats that Feel Peer Pressure Too’ and ‘Why didn’t Earth freeze under faint young Sun?’ is an article on what 5 movies the science community thinks got the science right in the science fiction genre. Five? That’s it, just five?

They first note how Iron Man includes many real world technologies, (Or they’re fishing for internet hits) but then they go on to point out their obvious focus: “all too often Hollywood’s use of science involves shocking blunders: including spaceships making whooshing noises in Star Wars to the journey to the centre of the Earth in The Core.”

The movies they reference range from 1968 to 2004 and they warn us that their reviews may contain potential spoilers …. [crickets in the background] Gee, thanks for the warning before I watch my BetaMax version of the movie I taped off off the airwaves. (You see why I like tormenting scientists.. they are so fun sometimes.)

The five movies they say got it right are:
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Alien (1979)
Gattaca (1997)
Solaris (1972 and 2002)

With 2001: A Space Odyssey, they say that Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke’s work is a realistic depiction of space travel when all the scenes outside the ship are in silence and the crew eats paste rather than solids and they loved how the crew members are shown dealing with the boredom of space travel.

They liked Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind because the selective memory erasure methodology depicted in the movie may not be impossible, quoting how different forms of dementia affect particular types of memory and so they approve of the premise.

They liked the use of suspended animation for long space trips in Alien because of the implausibility of faster-than-light travel. They also enjoyed the finer details of the aliens’ life cycle. But of course they still diss on the super fast life cycle of the adult and it’s acid blood.

Their appreciation of Gattaca stems from the grim vision of a society dominated by genetic prejudice and they still rag on the “job interview” at Gattaca Aerospace Corporation that consisted of DNA sampling of a urine sample because as they put it, our genetics can only give statistical predictions, not absolutes.

They liked Solaris because of how it portrays the limits of science and human understanding. They seem to appreciate Stanislaw Lem’s take on the fact that humans would not be able to understand the potential strangeness of extraterrestrial life.

I’m guessing the science community missed Barbarella. Again, we apologize for the spoilers .. Oi.

Sources: Merriam Webster, Wikipedia, New Scientist